Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Fender-bender by the sea

Egypt and the Middle East’s most hard-core car race is back to business. Mohamed Abdel-Razek reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

It has been quite some time now since the last Egyptian Auto-Cross racing event did what it does best to car enthusiasts in Egypt: overwhelmO their senses like nothing to match.

The Egyptian Auto-Cross was the first car racing championship to take place in Egypt back in 1989 — at the time named “Crazy Car.” Its uniqueness comes from what the race is all about, which is mainly a harsh test of the driver’s ability to control his car at a speed that allows him to go faster than his rivals, but not too fast so as to impede his ability to follow technical orders assigned on the racing field.

As they are not allowed to walk into the track, drivers are required to revise the track maps they receive in the briefing during the race — a regulation which forces them to deal with new orders as they go along. The track is approximately the size of a football field, surrounded with the stands all around, in similar fashion to the track of The Race Of Champions.

Technical orders are a traditional ritual for the race. In a nutshell, they are formations the racer should perform in each track that require him to simulate the figure eight, J turn and 360 manoeuvres. The driver has to use his skills to perform stunts that cause the car to drift on the thin layer of sand racing officials add on the track before each heat.

“So, in the end, you have a challenging race (good for the competitors). This race is so much fun to watch (good for the spectators), and if you’re a good driver, no matter what car you drive, you can simply win (good for the sport). That’s why the race is in a class of its own,” said race manager, Shady Osama.

The race consists of three heats; the first one is considered the qualification heat, where 66 drivers are filtered to choose the best according to a time tag racing officials decide. As the race goes through, second and third heats always require talented drivers.

The 2014 Egyptian Auto-Cross Round One took place in front of Marina Gate 5 in the North Coast on 1 August on a breezy summer evening. Approximately 1,500 fans gathered to spend eight hours of their precious summer vacations in intense excitement. Drivers stood for the briefing given by Mohamed El-Sawy, the race organiser, as he explained the race rules and safety regulations monitored by the Automobile and Touring Club of Egypt. After that, it was time to rumble, as all the drivers jumped into their cars to be ready for the call to enter the track.

In the first heat, two cars had to perform together on the track field, each driver in a separate lane in parallel with the other.

Just as each driver finishes his order, the track layout automatically forces him to change lanes with the other car; the fact that allows each driver to pass on all the orders. Only talented rising stars and experienced drivers had the chance to qualify from the first heat to the second, except the unlucky, experienced Yasser El-Gohari, who skipped a vital order, which cost him the race.

The competition was tough through all the six categories, which included front wheel drive, rear wheel drive and AWD with all of their engine ranges. However, it was an eye-opening surprise to all the drivers and fans when one of the ace drivers, Haitham Samir, in his AWD 500hp car, unexpectedly faced a mechanical issue during his second heat that laid him off much earlier in the day. By the time his teammate, Moataz Atef, solved the issue in Samir’s car, it was too late for Samir to come back, but Atef borrowed the car for the end of the race.

Moving to the third and final heat where all the drama and surprises take place, four new drivers who had never participated in the race successfully qualified to the final track: Omar Nasser, Hatem Fahim, Mohamed Khatib and Mohamed Essam.

More astonishingly, three-time champion, Ahmed Zidan, was not able to finish in the top positions overall, due to a severe mechanical issue that happened hours before the race, forcing him to finish 8th overall. Another big surprise was Khaled Emam, who miraculously won the overall rank with a 1300cc FWD car, followed by Moataz Atef and the rising talent, Omar Nasser.

While on the teams’ podium, Evo Club stood 1st, Egyptian Dream Team 2nd, and Wave Riders 3rd.
The next round will take place on Friday, August 29th, at the same track.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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